The Manitoba government is honouring the legacy of Louis Riel by introducing legislation that would recognize him as the first premier of Manitoba.
“For generations, Red River Métis people in Manitoba have fought for recognition, dignity and inclusion in our province,” said Premier Wab Kinew. “They have long known the true history of our province: that Louis Riel was our first premier. Today, our government will honour their tireless work to keep his legacy alive by introducing legislation that would recognize him as the first premier of Manitoba.”
Riel was 25 years old when he and other Red River Métis formed a provisional government and presented Canada with a bill of rights, which led to our province entering the confederation with the 1870 Manitoba Act. The Bill of Rights included protection for language and religious rights, representation in Ottawa and a demand that treaties made with First Nations be ratified. Riel served our province in parliament three times, negotiating with the Government of Canada. His leadership and the Red River Métis forever changed the shape of Western Canada, ensuring rights to democratic representation from the West were honoured, noted Kinew and Chartrand.
Following a hard-fought series of battles between Canadian troops and the Red River Métis, Riel surrendered himself to Canadian soldiers for trial in May 1885. He was subsequently tried and executed in Regina. Riel was 41 years old at the time of his death.
“This is a historic day of recognition for our historic leader, our nation and all Manitobans,” said Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand. “To see Louis Riel – leader of the Red River Métis of the Northwest – receive his rightful recognition for his contributions to the formation of Manitoba and Canada will touch the hearts of all our citizens, particularly our elected officials, elders and seniors who have spent their lives fighting and advocating for this moment. This legislation is just the beginning. We look forward to seeing the true history of Canada taught in schools from kindergarten to Grade 12 and beyond including the contributions of the government of the Red River Métis and all Indigenous nations.”
The premier noted the introduction of the new legislation marks the first step in resetting the relationship between the Manitoba government and Indigenous governments as partners and leaders in the province.